The Office of the Ombudsman is set to open a probe into the stampede that killed eight people and injured scores at Bingu National Stadium (BNS) in Lilongwe during the 53rd Independence Anniversary Celebrations.
The Ombudsman’s move follows a request by the Society of Medical Doctors (SMD) in a letter dated July 7 2017, Ref: SMD/069/17 signed by its president Douglas Lungu.
In the letter, which The Nation has seen, the doctors asked Ombudsman Martha Chizuma Mwangonde to investigate what transpired for the tragedy to occur, including the planning of the event, circumstances that led to the tragedy and the immediate response to the tragedy of the first responders.
Reads the letter in part: “Our members were instrumental in the first and subsequent emergency response. They worked with dedication in trying to save lives of those who were injured. But they were left with the deep sense that this could have been avoided.
“The site of helpless children suffering and dying is unbearable to all people of conscious so [it was] to those whose calling is to reduce suffering and it is a situation in which they do not want to find themselves again if they can help it.”
In her brief written response to the demand, Mwangonde said the request passed a screening test with her office; hence, the tragedy will be duly investigated.
Office of the Ombudsman public relations officer Arthur Semba said the investigations will be carried out for a maximum period of three months.
He said his institution felt that as the Office of the Ombudsman, launching investigations into the matter would be necessary because there was an injustice that occurred in the whole scenario.
Said Semba: “As Office of the Ombudsman, we live by the Constitution and Ombudsman Act which gives us powers to investigate any alleged injustice or unfairness in any way public service delivery has been given to the people so we feel that we can come in because there is loss of life which is an injustice. So, we are going to investigate, issue a report and see how it goes.”
Following the incident, the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) appealed to appropriate authorities to investigate the matter further and arrest those responsible for the tragedy.
HRCC national coordinator Robert Mkwezalamba on Friday blamed stadium authorities and police for mismanagement of the situation.
Commenting on the tragedy on Friday, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said a preliminary inquiry showed that the stampede was caused by the delay in opening of the gates at the stadium, and further said the Inspector General (IG) of Police has instituted a full internal inquiry into the matter.
President Peter Mutharika, who visited some of the injured people at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), also condemned poor crowd control tactics for the tragedy.
Thousands of people thronged the 40 000-seat stadium to watch a friendly football match between Lilongwe based Silver Strikers and Nyasa Big Bullets of Blantyre which the Bullets won 2-1. n